A good year for SA’s Kirsten Landman
THE Red Bull Sea to Sky is unique: three days of racing in beautiful terrain on the shores of the Turkish Riviera. Each day has a different format and terrain, making this one of the toughest and most enjoyable races for hard enduro riders the world over.
This year saw the first opportunity for Brother Leader Tread KTM rider Kirsten Landman to make it to the Turkish event so we caught up with her upon her return to SA.
Q: “Sea to Sky is quite a new event in the grand scheme of things and the 2015 race was the sixth edition. You are the first woman in the world to receive a gold finisher’s medal. How does that make you feel?”
Kirst: “Wow, after all the trials and tribulations over the past few years and the bad luck I had at Romanics this year, it was good to have a strong result, especially on an international scale.
“It’s a good feeling to know the hard work and dedication is paying off in the form of such a result. I still can’t explain exactly how I feel in words.
“The support from South African fans has been amazing and I would like to thank everyone for the messages of support.”
Q: “We can safely say that this is your career high point so far. What has led you to this? What made you want to ride dirt bikes? Did you realise as a little girl you wanted to be a dirt biker or did a family member steer you to it?”
Kirst: “My dad grew up with dirt bikes and my uncle and cousin rode. My cousin and I are close in age so obviously I wanted a go too. At the time, I was very into my swimming and was trying out for the provincial team so my dad said if I made the team, he would buy me a dirt bike. I was eight. I got into the team and I was given a peewee 80 and ever since then I have been motorbike gaga! The progression went from there to ATVs and then finally I got and RM85, then an RM125, my first real dirt bikes and I started entering the local club hare-scrambles.
“I will never forget how good it felt to place fourth, then third, then I actually started to beat them.
“I never looked at it as a career path, it was mostly a passion that I shared with my dad.
“Once my schooling was complete, in fact the next year, I took a gap year. I got picked up by a team and started competing on a national level doing Enduros. Then in 2012, what a terrible year, that was the year I DNF-ed at the Roof at my first attempt and I had loads of stupid injuries that slowed my development down, I really thought, ‘well this is as far as I go with racing’ because I hadn’t shaped at all. That was when the legend of SA Off Road and Enduro racing, Daryl Curtis, introduced me to my now team manager, Franziska Brandl of KTM SA. Having lost my ride, KTM were looking for a woman rider. It was like a fairy tale, I met the boss and within days was signing a contract.” Q: “Tell us about that year.
Kirst: “I was having a good year until halfway through the season when I had a high-speed crash at the Desert Race and well let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. I had to be medevac’d and had some bad injuries. I don’t regret the crash as it made me hungrier to succeed and I feel I grew as a person and as a racer. I learnt to live in the now as you never know when it will all be taken away from you. The bulk of the remainder of that year was spent mending.” Q: “And last year was good wasn’t it?
Kirst: “Yes, it so was! I got my first taste of Hard Enduro when I went to Romanics. What a challenge and what an honour it was. Then after that was the Roof at the end of the year which I finished, the whole year felt like every time I raced I improved. Q: “So tell us, what’s next?”
Kirst: “It’s Roof of Africa time! We will take the race step by step, I don’t want to create too much expectation and pressure as Roof is after all the mother of all hard enduros.”
Q: “Would you make a switch in the national enduros to possibly E2 or E1 going forward?”
Kirst:” Well the standard in SA Enduro is really high, my team-mates Bouverie, Teasdale and Young are testament to this.
“I am have no delusions that I’m as quick as those guys. Speed is not my strong side, I prefer technical stuff and the endurance side of hard enduro. So for now, I haven’t really decided. Silver would be my immediate choice but maybe a stint on the 250F is on the cards. But I have tasted success on the 250 Freeride and that’s going to be my first choice for hard enduro.”
Q: “There are some rumours that there will be a hard endure championship in SA in 2016. Would you be interested?”
Kirst: “Definitely. I want to do as much hard enduro as I can and my goal would be to finish all the rounds and again pave the way for woman in our sport as the first woman finisher.”
Q: “What message would you give to young riders and young girls specifically who are starting out?”
Kirst: “It sounds like a cliché, but live your dreams, don’t let go of them, they can be achieved. Doubt is part of life, but when you fall down and things are tough, never give up. Always push for what you want. Don’t let anything hold you back. You’re on this planet once, make it count.” — WR.
Kirsten Landman is the first woman in the world to receive a gold finisher’s medal at the Sea to Sky.